Synopses & Reviews
This is the story of the Bramble family--Margaret, Max, and Edie--three adult siblings careening through wildly different byways of adult life. Margaret, mother of three, is about to take her ailing father into the tumult and chaos of her already overcrowded home. Edie is young and single, but struggling mightily to anchor her solitary life. Max, newly married, newly a father, is buckling under the weight of new responsibilities. Over the course of one critical season, a long hidden secret will be revealed, remaking each of them, and all they thought they knew about themselves.
"Minot's graceful, candid novel about the meaning of adulthood and the depth of family attachment follows the three siblings of the titular clan as they face the consequences of their life choices. Margaret is an ambivalent mother of three who relinquished her autonomy and former identity as a hip New Yorker for a suburban life of carpools; Max, a new father, quit his job as an independent film producer but hides the truth from his wife by pretending to go to work every day; depressed, lonely 20-something Edie struggles with singlehood and a newly acquired eating disorder. Now, they must cope with their widowed father, Arthur, who moves into Margaret's home to suffer through the final stages of cancer. There is also the matter of a long-held family secret, revealed, of course, when they least expect it. Minot (Susan's sister and author of The Tiny One) has a refreshing, contemporary voice, and even the most mundane moments Edie talking to herself in the car, Margaret's daughter dancing on the lawn contain surprising swells of emotion. As it turns out, the revealed secret is melodramatic and far-fetched, but this novel excels all the same, buoyed up by its quiet conflicts and small, gorgeous glimpses at truth. 40,000 announced first printing; author tour. (July 21)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Minot moves nimbly from one character's consciousness to the next, illustrating the power of family to hurt and to heal....A moving portrait of the ties that bind." Kirkus Reviews
"With its warm portrayal of families and relationships and its unexpected plot twists, Minot's new novel will appeal to a range of fiction audiences....A strong candidate for most collections." Library Journal
"If Katherine Mansfield had lived to give birth and bury her parents, she would have written The Brambles. This is a luminous and lyrical book; the writing is rich, but slices like a shining blade. Eliza Minot is not afraid to tackle the big subjects: birth and death, as well as love and life. It is a triumph." Mary Gordon
"[Minot] delivers such consistently perceptive, even stunning sentences that it's easy to overlook the less than cohesive story and just recline inside the characters minds and listen to them think. This novel is imperfect in a way that leaves you marveling at the many things it does right." Meghan Daum, New York Times Book Review
"An impressive stylistic leap from her admired first novel....Minot shows that she is not afraid to take risks to tease out from the beautiful bones of her story its marrow of suspense." Elle
"It takes the first third of the novel for Minot to weave her characters together, primarily through dialogue. It's a tricky way to set up a story because, as everyone knows, we are not who we say we are, and we only rarely say what we mean, even to those closest to us. But when a writer pulls it off, as Minot does, the result is rewarding." Los Angles Times
"Minot writes radiantly about muddledness: Her prose has the brilliant quality of sharpened detail you experience when you finally get eyeglasses, and that blurred green of the trees turns out to be composed of countless distinct leaves when the ordinary turns out to be fully extraordinary." Newsday
About the Author
Eliza Minot is the author of The Tiny One. She was born in Beverly, Massachusetts and now lives in New Jersey with her family.
Reading Group Guide
1. The Brambles
begins and ends with women in the garden-Florence in the opening scene and Margaret in the final one. Why would Minot frame the novel in this way?
2. How does Eliza Minot manage to create such a rich and complex portrait of family life, with all its joys, frustrations, and tenderness, in The Brambles? What is it that makes her writing so convincing and so resonant?
3. What role do secrets play in The Brambles? Who keeps secrets? What effects do they have? What happens when these secrets are revealed?
4. Margaret asks what difference she is making in the world and answers herself with a series of rhetorical questions: “Wasnt it good enough to be raising three kids, giving as much as she could to them, as often as she was able? Wasnt it good enough to be nursing her father, bringing him to the house?” [p. 171]. Does Margaret think of herself as a martyr? What is the larger value of family life, of caring for ones family, as it is presented in the novel?
5. As shes about to dive into the ocean, Edie asks herself “Isnt this what life is for? To do things you want to do as long as you dont hurt anyone or hurt yourself?” [p. 196]. How does her attitude toward life differ from her sisters?
6. In what ways are Max, Margaret, and Edie self-absorbed? In what ways are they compassionate and concerned with others? In what ways do they try to deal with the grief over the recent and sudden death of their mother and the imminent death of their father?
7. What is so touching and powerful about the way Margarets children-Florence, Stephen, and Sarah-relate to their grandfather and his dying?
8. What effect does their fathers death have on Max, Margaret, and Edie? How does it change their sense of themselves and how they want to live their lives?
9. What small moments of daily life-and the consciousness of her characters as they are immersed in their daily lives-does Minot capture especially vividly? In what ways is her writing remarkably true to life?
10. How are the Bramble siblings affected by discovering, belatedly, the truth of their origins? Why would their parents have kept this secret from them for so long?
11. Margaret wonders, near the novels end, “What is it thats trapped within each of them, that rises up and grows, that shimmers along the edges of a life like a glistening fish, ready to burst through?” [p. 242]. Why does she feel compelled to ask this question? How might it be answered?
12. Eliza Minots prose is often described by reviewers as lyrical. What passages come closest to poetry in their music and subtlety of description?
13. What is the significance of both Margaret and Edie being rear-ended on the very same day? Do these accidents provide an emotional, as well as a physical, jolt? What role does Tammy play in the novel? Why has Minot included her?
14. At the end of the novel, Margaret recalls her father telling her “Its not all about love at all . . . . Its about the ability to do it, it seems to me.” In the final sentence Margaret hears one of her children asking, “Mom? Are you all right, Mom? Mom? Mom? What are you doing?” [p. 243]. Why does Minot end the novel this way? What does her father mean when he says its all about “the ability to do it”? What is Margaret doing as the novel closes?
“Consistently perceptive, even stunning. . . . [The Brambles]
leaves you marveling . . . and looking forward to the authors next move.”
—The New York Times Book Review
The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to stimulate your groups discussion of Eliza Minots The Brambles, the follow-up to her acclaimed first novel, The Tiny One.